Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Discovery XIX


I wasn't expecting much of Izakaya Mizu, a little Japanese restaurant on Riversdale Road near the Camberwell market, but this discovery turned out to be one of the best yet. Thank you to the marketers who popped a discount voucher into the letter box yesterday. This encouraged us to give it a try.

Our little group was smaller than usual tonight, with two discoverers offsite on interstate trips. Ms 31 stepped into the breach with aplomb.

Despite being situated on the wrong side of the great divide (Burke Road), Izakaya Mizu is licensed. Small consolation to those of us who had struggled up the hill with a bagful of Coopers on a very hot evening, or made the tram journey with a pile of Budweiser, but easily assuaged with a couple of glasses of Asahi. The complimentary dishes of bean sprouts in a spicy dressing made us feel very welcome too.

This is a picture of a garden on Riversdale Road, near the top of the hill, looking quite fetching in the evening sunshine.

Garden in Riversdale Road
Riversdale Road
The menu at Izakaya Mizu is very prettily laid out with coloured pictures of the dishes and it took some time to choose. We finally settled on eggplant with miso, seaweed salad, "spaghetti" with mushrooms, vegetable gyoza, and ribs to keep the carnivores happy.

Gyoza and eggplant
Gyoza and eggplant
Ribs and seaweed salad
Ribs and salad
We had trouble deciding which dish was the highlight of the evening. The eggplant was beautiful - perfectly cooked and smothered in salty miso, served with some crispy fried noodle and green lettuce. The seaweed salad with broccoli, tomato, cucumber and iceberg lettuce added just the right accent of crisp refreshment. The gyoza were lovely - slightly scorched, soft little pillows of goodness - and the mushroom spaghetti was luscious, with an intriguing range of funghi. Apparently the ribs were OK too - at least there were only bones left when Mr 28 and Ms 31 had done their worst.

Next time, I have to try my all time favourites, the tofu and edamame - but tonight was all about discovery.

The host and the waiter at this restaurant are both absolutely charming and you should go there without delay.

And so we dispersed into the Boroondara night, Mr 28 with his Budweiser and me with my Coopers, already making plans for next week's big discovery.

Izakaya Mizu on Urbanspoon


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Discovery XVIII

Inspired by the Parma Daze review of the Bridge hotel, just over the bridge in Bridge Road Richmond, a depleted set of discoverers arranged to meet at 7.00 pm. On ringing to make the usual booking in the name of Boris, I was told that bookings in the dining area could be made only for 6.00 or 8.00 pm, but that we were welcome to try our luck in one of the bar areas.

And thus we met in the loft, where there were plenty of high tables and chairs. We chose a table with a view across Richmond towards the city. As the dusk settled in we were looking forward to our meal.

View from the loft at the Bridge hotel
From the Bridge
Mr 28 chose the grilled chicken and bacon burger with chips, lettuce and tomato with "seeded mayonnaise"; the other choices were veal schnitzel with coleslaw, beer battered chips and mushroom sauce; and the eggplant parmigiana (hey, it's parma special Tuesday! only $13!) for me.

The first disappointment was the burger, which was devoid of lettuce or seeded mayonnaise, whatever that is. Maybe the chef didn't know either. The second disappointment was the mushroom sauce. According to my trusty discoverer companions, it tasted weird. The third disappointment was the eggplant parma. I should have been paying attention when I read the menu description, but what on earth are they thinking? Why would anybody prefer to eat soggy turkish bread rather than chips with parma? The other discoverers kindly chipped in with contributions of beer battered chips from their own plates, but sadly these chips were barely warm. The only good thing that can be said about them is that they were better than the eggplant, the burger and the schitzel.

The eggplant parma was presented as four rings of eggplant topped with napoli sauce and cheese, on a bed of salad with a couple of pieces of charred but soggy Turkish bread leaning on top. Two of the eggplant segments were fine, but the other two were cut so thick that they were uncooked and inedible. And there was no evidence of any nice crumb coating on any of these sorry vegetables. However the rocket salad was very tasty and I ate it all up.

I've enhanced the following photo using the new inbuilt editing features of FlickStackr (thanks for this update - it's great!) so it probably looks better than it really was. And remember the chips were not in the original.

Picture of eggplant parmigiana
When is a parma not a parma?
The only consolation to look forward to was the special Tuesday parma price.

Imagine my shock then on bring presented with the bill and discovering that the parma had been charged at full price! I was informed that the special parma deal only applied to chicken parma - eggplant parma didn't qualify. Well sorry guys, but don't mess with an angry vegetarian who has just endured an inedible eggplant parma without chips. It took a visit from the manager, but finally justice was restored and the discount was applied.

The best discovery of the night was yet to come. Mr 28 suggested a detour to Dan's on the way home. I had no idea that the Bridge Road instance of the discount liquor store chain boasted a secret car park, complete with lift access right into the store. Worth celebrating with a case of Coopers to help take away the nasty taste of undercooked eggplant!

Bridge Hotel on Urbanspoon


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Discovery XVII

Finally, a true discovery close to home. We decided to try Greek Spot, a small and unassuming neighbourhood restaurant in Burwood Road Hawthorn. So unassuming that we must have driven past here a hundred times without ever noticing it.

Water jug at Greek Spot
Greek Spot jug
We drove to Hawthorn in a shower of rain and luckily chanced on a parking spot right outside the restaurant, after bravely executing a right hand turn across a stream of home-bound traffic. Mr 30 and Mr 28 arrived soon afterwards. Mythos beer and a jug of iced water set the scene for a quickly served and tasty discovery experience.

The vegetarian options on the menu were rather meagre, but a selection of dolmades, baked feta with tomatoes and olives, warm pita bread and Greek salad was delicious. The other discoverers shared a mixed grill of lamb chops, lamb skewers, lamb bits, chicken, bifteck, onion and chips to go with the delicious Greek salad of shredded green lettuce with very finely chopped tomato and onion.

One baklava, some more Mythos and a couple of coffees later we were out the door after our early dinner and into the gloomy Hawthorn evening. By this time the little restaurant was absolutely packed.

Obviously we are not the only ones to have discovered this very pleasant little spot.


Discovery XVI

Back in the world's most liveable city, we decided to sample a very new restaurant. The Hamer Hall redevelopment has transformed the former forbidding fortress with new terraces along the riverfront. In one of these terraces is Saké.

After a quick Coopers pale at the Oxford Scholar (a rather average pub but with very attractive beer pricing), we took the tram down Swanston Street to the Fed Square superstop and walked across Princes Bridge. The directions for meeting were somewhat vague - "how about trying that new bar on the river at Hamer Hall?" But Mr 30 was easy to spot, sitting on the terrace in the late afternoon sunshine with a Mountain Goat hightail ale.

Saké is somewhat expensive ($12 for local beer? Really?) but the food is both delicious and stunningly presented. My absolute favourite baby edamame came in a rustic ceramic dish, all aglitter with salt crystals and perfectly cooked.

The kingfish jalapeño looked like an artist's palette (the palette of a very neat and precise artist) and the tonkatsu cups were even prettier, although not too pretty for the other discoverers to eat. There was also a dish of tofu which was a light crispy salty delight. I think I had eaten up all the tofu before I remembered to take a photo of these beautiful dishes.

Dishes at Saké
Dishes at Saké
The decor and the surroundings are gorgeous and on a balmy dusky Melbourne evening, where else would you want to be? Well, maybe somewhere that serves cheaper beer.

Dusk at Saké
Dusk at Saké

Monday, October 15, 2012

Discovery XV

Discovery XV (aka as the great schism) was held in two separate cities. The northern reformation relocated to Canberra while the southern branch continued operations as normal in Melbourne.

It was agreed that the Melbourne branch would organise the Canberra event, while the northern breakaway would coordinate the Melbourne group. So before we left for Canberra we booked a table for two in the name of Boris at Kanzaman in Bridge Road Richmond.

While we were lunching in the sunshine at the Ivy café by the lake at ANU, the text message came through from down south. Dinner for four at Sub-urban by Belluci's, Dickson, 7.30 pm.

Picture of magpie on chair at the Ivy café
Lunch companion
After managing to salvage our lunch from the local wildlife we went for a stroll around the Acton peninsula and then visited the National Museum.

The 'loop' at the National Museum, Canberra
National Museum
Sub-urban proved to be a pub tucked away in a corner of the Dickson shops. The restaurant section adjoins the bar. On a Tuesday night things are pretty quiet in the bar but the restaurant was reasonably packed with family groups.

Strangely the beer on tap was Carlton Draught rather than one of the NSW brands I would have expected, but it came in a schooner just to prove that we were no longer in Victoria. Meanwhile the others ordered a Bourke Street pinot, which is a local brew from nearby Collector. Go figure.

Carlton Draught beer and Bourke Street pinot noir
Bourke Street
If I see stuffed zucchini flowers on a menu I have to have them. I've tried making them and have come to the conclusion that this is one dish better left to the experts. Belucci's version was quite pleasant - although not quite achieving the crispy ethereal standards of some others I've tried, definitely much better than could be easily made at home. With them I chose a side dish of verde, which was quite excellent - lightly cooked asparagus, bok choy and beans in a light dressing of garlic infused olive oil.

Stuffed zucchini flowers
Zucchini flowers
Dessert was a very pretty crème brûlée with pear crumble.

Crème brûlée
Crème brûlée
We discovered later that the Melbourne branch had indulged in the Kanzaman banquet. Perhaps something worth a future ecumenical discovery.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Discovery XIV

On Tuesday 25 September two discoverers set out for Swan Street by tram. They were joined by discoverer #3 near Burnley Street. Our destination: Mexicali Rose.

As with many of our discoveries to date, Mexicali Rose had already been discovered. A birthday party for discoverer #4 was held here many years ago. The distinctive butterfly gates are still just around the corner, although Rod Quantock's bus tour has not survived. The food here, although maybe not really authentic Mexican cuisine, is still much better than at many alternatives. And you can book and you don't have to queue.

While waiting for the arrival of discoverer #4 we whiled away the time with a Mexican beer bucket and an 'Apperitzer' consisting of guacamole, sikil pak and black bean dip. Once our company was complete we enjoyed a selection of 'combinaciones' including the vegetarian enchilada espinaca, quesadilla de tinga, mushroom taquito, rice & frijoles. This was a very pleasant selection of tastes and textures.

Mexicali Rose is very professionally run and has to be doing something right to have survived in such a competitive location for so many years. I would recommend it for family groups (and discoverers of course). It would be a great choice for a quick meal before an evening footy game at the 'G - or after the cricket.